We are often asked, “When was asbestos banned?” To most people’s surprise, it really hasn’t been fully banned.
- The Clean Air Act of 1970 classified asbestos as a hazardous air pollutant and gave the EPA the power to regulate the use and disposal of asbestos. Spray-applied asbestos products were banned with the passage of this act.
- In 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) provided the EPA the authority to place restrictions on certain chemicals such as asbestos, radon and lead-based paint.
- The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986 (AHERA) made the EPA establish standards for inspecting and removing asbestos in schools.
- In July 1989, the EPA issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule (ABPR), which planned to impose a full ban on the manufacturing, importation, processing and sale of asbestos-containing products.
Asbestos product manufacturers filed a lawsuit against the EPA in the landmark case Corrosion Proof Fittings v. Environmental Protection Agency and on Oct. 18, 1991, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ban, claiming the EPA failed to demonstrate that a ban was the “least burdensome alternative” to regulating asbestos.
While the EPA didn’t appeal the ruling, it did receive clarification from the court that the ban could apply to asbestos products that were not being manufactured, processed or imported on July 12, 1989, which was the day the EPA announced the ABPR.
The EPA determined that six categories of asbestos-containing products fit that classification, including:
- Flooring felt
- Commercial paper
- Corrugated paper
- Specialty paper
- New uses of asbestos
These uses remain banned today.
In April 2019 EPA issued a final rule that strengthens the Agency’s ability to rigorously review an expansive list of asbestos products that are no longer on the market before they could be sold again in the United States. This action gives EPA the authority to prohibit the use of these products or put in place restrictions to protect public health.
- The public is protected from uses of asbestos that are no longer on the market and are not covered under any other laws or regulations. Products like certain asbestos vinyl floor tiles, insulation, and other building materials, as well as clothing and manufacturing products, are prohibited from being produced and sold before EPA reviews them and puts in place any necessary restrictions or prohibits use.
- EPA is not allowing new uses of asbestos. Persons subject to the rule are required to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing any manufacturing, importing, or processing of asbestos or asbestos-containing products covered under the rule. These uses are prohibited until EPA conducts a thorough review of the notice and puts in place any necessary restrictions, including prohibiting use.
- Uses of asbestos covered under the partial 1989 ban will remain banned. This rule keeps these prohibitions in place and would not amend them in any way. In other words, this action does not provide a means by which these prohibited products could return to the marketplace.
Examples of products prohibited from entering the market under this rule include the following:
- Adhesives and sealants
- Cement products
- Pipeline wrap
- Roofing felt
- Vinyl-asbestos floor tile
- Roof and non-roof coatings
- Reinforced plastics
- Other building products
The final rule became effective on June 24, 2019.